Anyone who has ever doubted IT’s significant impact on a company’s top line hasn’t considered how much can go wrong during the delivery of digital products, services and experiences to customers. Across industries, that final, critical moment when customers decide whether to spend their money or time on a company could be determined by the availability and performance of a website or app.
Companies must be where customers are—digital mediums—to market, sell and build loyalty, but tech companies aren’t the only ones depending on the internet to also deliver the goods. The transactional, purchasing phase of the customer’s journey now occurs digitally even in industries that existed before the internet, like entertainment. People watch live events, follow their favorite TV shows and hear the newest songs not only on televisions and radios but also on web portals and mobile apps.
That’s a huge, expanding responsibility for IT. The shift also presents opportunities for CIOs to prove and add value to their company’s top line. Corporate websites, microsites and mobile apps are often customers’ first or final impression of a brand, as well as tools for acquiring heaps of valuable customer data.
To guarantee availability and improve the performance of these key digital destinations, many CIOs turn to the cloud.
Common Cloud Use Cases: Website Availability
Websites, and all the supporting applications, are often one of the first use cases companies try out for cloud computing. Years ago, it was reported that so many websites already depended on Amazon’s cloud that the company could be considered “a core piece of the internet.”
After all, the benefits of cloud computing lend quite well to the needs of websites, such as:
- High Availability & Disaster Recovery: Failure is not an option when it comes to website availability. Leading cloud providers offer and manage configurations that ensure the servers running websites never quit and are always up-to-date.
- Scalability: The sharp fluctuations in traffic that websites experience can impact performance and availability. IT can access on-demand resources from the cloud to keep sites afloat during unexpected peak traffic.
- Developer Enablement: IT can’t just run websites. They also need to build new features that keep up with customer preferences. Developers can easily replicate web environments in the cloud for testing, collaboration and rollout.
The following story further illustrates the benefits of cloud computing for one of companies’ arguably most important assets: customer-facing digital platforms.
Server Not Found
“For us, that’s the worst-case scenario,” said Roger Hofmann, head of digital for HIT RADIO FFH, a German radio station expecting on average 6 million monthly visitors to several web portals. “Every time our website was down in the past, there was a huge danger that our audience would go to the competitor’s radio station and get the information there.”
HIT RADIO FFH operated websites on-premises with some additional cloud resources, but IT couldn’t quickly get the additional resources they needed to handle peak website traffic. “In extreme weather situations or when competitions run, up to 100 times the number of users access our website and app. It was sometimes difficult to absorb these peak loads flexibly with our previous infrastructure,” said Hofmann.
So IT expanded to a software-defined data center (SDDC) managed entirely by a new cloud provider in the private cloud. That move, completed within just two months without any outages, empowered IT to scale up from two to 25 virtual machines andscale up or down again in the event of planned or unplanned events. With that newfound flexibility to get resources on demand, Hofmann said they ensure their audience can always reach HIT RADIO FFH.
Reaching Farther from the Cloud
From the cloud, HIT RADIO FFH doesn’t just make their websites available to regular visitors. IT also has part of a digital foundation from which to create better, more exciting digital experiences for their growing audience.
Hofmann and his colleague Thomas Winkelmann, a web developer, said they’re more easily setting up test environments to develop new features, like radio streaming. Virtualization and cloud technologies simplify monitoring and maintenance, so IT can also focus on improving the performance of multimedia-heavy web portals and mobile apps—a key digital medium to compete in for the foreseeable future.
“The fact that our listeners can access our offering at any time from any location—and not quickly click to a rival station—is of clear competitive advantage to us,” said Winkelmann. “We continue to pursue a clear strategy of mobile first.”